The “Freshman 15″. The very words strike fear in the heart of many college students (and some adults too). Fortunately, there are ways to avoid gaining weight whether you’re a college freshman or you’re attending your 25th reunion.
For example, at Iowa State University, they’ve implemented “tray-less” dining. It’s simple: no trays means really having to think about what to take from the buffet, because students can only take what they can carry to their tables sans tray. Without a tray, students take less food because they can’t carry as much. Says Nancy Levandowski, ISU dining director “(Without trays) they may be able to get two different items and eat that, and if they are still hungry, they can go back for more. But, in many cases, they realize that they are full.”
What I love about this is it combines portion control with mindful eating. It’s brilliant! And it’s a trick anyone can utilize. When presented with an array of options, give some thought to what you really want to eat and take reasonable portions of those foods first. Then, and this part is really important, decide if you are hungry for more food. As Levandowski notes, the students are making a decision to return for more food or not, and often realize that they’re done eating.
Here’s another example of mindful eating, albeit with less-than-healthy choices:
Danny Lynch, a UI freshman, loads up on a slice of pizza, a burger with American cheese and bacon and a scoop of chocolate ice cream. He typically tries several things but doesn’t eat it all. When asked about freshman-year weight gain, he says “I don’t think it is going to happen. If you are aware of it, you don’t have to worry as much.”
The first strategy that Danny is implementing is mindfulness – he’s aware of what he’s eating (and hopefully he learns to make better choices!) Danny’s also practicing what I call the Law of Diminishing Returns. This law states that the first bite of anything is the best. The second is pretty good. The third isn’t quite as good. And the fourth is just not adding any value. When you eat mindfully, you realize your enjoyment of food is not increasing and it’s easier to take a bite or two of a treat, then walk away with your waistline intact.
Try these strategies today and see how well they can work for you too.